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Salvation Army working through staff shortage as omicron impacts Hot Springs

As the omicron variant spreads throughout the state, a number of businesses are seeing staff shortages due to the virus, including Salvation Army in Hot Springs.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Staff shortages due to COVID-19 have hit many industries as the omicron variant continues to spread.

In Hot Springs, the Salvation Army knows that all too well.

"Chaos... just pure chaos," Cpt. Bryan Brinlee said. "Even though this week we weren't able to run our social services, we still had to do basic needs."

For an organization that helps vulnerable populations, having any amount of staff out is an issue. Unfortunately, they can't just work from home like most industries.

"Which has affected us, but most of our work is actually hands on," Brinlee said. "So we don't have the affordability of being able to work from home, but having to come down here and serve people."

Their services include a thrift store and diner – both vital and in-person services. 

With as many people as they had out, others had to step in and help.

"It's comprised of 10 employees, nine of which have had COVID at some point or another in the last two weeks," Brinlee said.

Among those doing jobs they don't normally do is Cpt. Brinlee himself.

"I ended up working in the Red Shield Diner and social services," he said, laughing. "Every department in this building in the last two weeks, I tell ya, my wife and I were just exhausted."

He's looking back and laughing now because their staff is finally returning from COVID. 

Even though the situation was tough for his entire staff, he said there was never any thought of shutting down those vital services.

Cpt. Brinlee said helping others, especially with how cold it's been, was too important.

"That's what we're actually trying to do is learn peoples names, not just to see a face and throw food out of the window," he said. "But learn who people are, learn their life story, and be able to walk alongside them in their life journey."

The Salvation Army of Hot Springs will be back to full staff and full operations on Monday.